Intestinal worms

Intestinal worms can be found in food and on our pets. How can we avoid being infested and how can we get rid of these parasites?

Intestinal worms, like lice, are not very popular subjects among friends, yet, parasitic worms are affecting nearly a third of the world population1. Even though most life-threatening cases are found in third world countries where the contamination mainly occurs through drinking with fingers or manipulating infested objects, it is good to know the various types of intestinal worms, the modes of transmission and the treatments.


Pinworms are the most harmless and frequent parasites in men, across the world. In Canada, it is estimated that one third of all children will have pinworms at one time or another in their lives.

Similar to grains of rice, pinworms settle into the large intestine and some find their way in the panties or stools of their hosts. Pinworms cause intense anal itching, especially at night, as females lay their eggs.

Pinworms are transmitted by objects or food contaminated by eggs. Afterwards, the infestation is maintained by self-contamination when the person scratches and puts his dirty hands in his mouth or touches an object. The eggs survive up to 20 days.

Pinworm infections can be confirmed in two ways. First, you can observe your child’s anus an hour after he fell asleep using a flashlight. If your child is infected, you will soon see moving white worms. Place a few in a jar containing alcohol or vinegar. You will then bring that jar to a doctor who will diagnose your child and prescribe medication. You can also paste tape on your child’s anal area until the morning to collect the worms that will be analysed by the doctor. Just fold the tape on itself in the early morning.

Other intestinal worms

The tapeworm, a parasite whose transitional hosts include pork and beef, is a flatworm that can reach one to twelve meters long. It is widespread in all countries where people eat meat regularly and causes few symptoms, except some abdominal pain and weight loss that is not related to a change in your diet. The worm can drop segments that look like moving noodles in the panties, stools or sheets of its hosts. It is even one of the only ways to notice its presence. To avoid contamination, t is important to cook meat well and to wash hands after handling raw meat.

Much rarer, ascariasis is also more serious. Although usually benign in temperate regions, it would cause 60,000 deaths in hotter countries according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Eating vegetables that contain worms usually transmits roundworms infection. It causes coughing, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. The diagnosis becomes obvious when the host rejects a worm in his stool but also (more rarely) through the mouth or nose. However, it is fairly easy to get rid of it by using the appropriate medication, which is very effective.


The best way to avoid intestinal worms is to have impeccable hygiene. Always wash your hands before putting them in your mouth, especially after playing in sandboxes and after manipulating raw meat. Also, wash fruits and vegetables before eating and wash your hands thoroughly after being in contact with pets.


  1. McGill University Health Center
  2. MediResource Inc.
Image de Anne Costisella

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